The first half of winter (December 1 through January 15) is behind us and if it has felt a lot colder than last year the data definitely supports that perception. The average temperature during that stretch was 10.5 degrees colder this year then that same period last winter. Granted, that is a significant difference, but as a reminder, last winter was the warmest on record and the first half of the winter of 2011-2012 was nearly 4 degrees warmer than any other such period since records began.
Although this season has been much colder than last year, it is still running approximately 4 degrees above average, so unless the next six weeks record well below average temperatures, this will be our second winter in a row with an above average temperature. Previous to the past two years we recorded four colder than average cold seasons. In fact, the first half of the winter of 2008-2009 the average temperatures was 8 degrees below average.
With most North Dakota schools starting this week and Labor Day weekend just a week away, many of you are perhaps thinking about autumn and winter more than the last remnants of summer that we have been experiencing lately. This has been evident in numerous short conversations I have had in recent days as nearly every place I go, the same question comes up. “What will our winter be like?”
With an El Nino developing in the Pacific Ocean you will likely hear that the upcoming winter will be another mild one in this area. Yet, the winter of 2009-2010 was an El Nino winter that ended up very cold and snowy because one single parameter does not guarantee certain weather conditions as many forecasters learned that year.
Therefore, it is too early for a prediction, but one thing I can almost guarantee is this area will probably not experience another record breaking warm winter, meaning, that even if temperatures are near normal this cold season, it is going to feel brutal in comparison to last year.